Day 12 and 13 Hanle - Chumur - Leh

Hanle - Chumur - Road block (Read on for the details of road block) - Leh
From the start of this trip the highlight of our trip was the visit to Hanle, Chumur and Chumur monastery which has pretty interesting stories behind it.

We read about the monastery that it has a lama's body mummified and preserved. It seems that the hair of the mummified lama keeps growing and the monks come every year and cut its hair.

There was one more story which Sunil Sir told us that long back in history there was a witch who killed several monks in the monastery which was eventually killed by this mummified lama when she was in meditation. The lama had cut her hands with a sword. And the hands and sword are still preserved and kept in the monastery.
Here is a pretty interesting peice of info, On top of the world. It seems even the National Geographic guys were not allowed inside the monastery. Hats off Gaurav Jaani for the fabulous trip and the film he shot in Changthang valley.

We were pretty excited to visit this place and wanted to know more about the stories behind the monastery if those stories are for real or not.

Photographer: Sunil Sir

So starting my day 12 logs with the photo of our cute passenger accompanying us to Chumur.
His mom had already reached Chumur and he was missing his mom badly hence that sad face and also he had cough and cold.
Morning 6 o clock we woke up and started preparing for Chumur. The observatory guys prepared us a some breakfast.
We started for Chumur after having breakfast. We were told that it is around 75 kms from Hanle with bad/no roads. We were at ease as a native of Chumur itself was accompanying us.
The roads practically not existing and this time not even the truck trails were there following which we could have been on the right track, unlike road to Hanle from Nyoma. We were going very very slow, as slow as 8 to 10 kmph. We took breaks in between, clicked snaps of the marmots, birds, and wild asses. While taking a break I thought of walking for some distance instead of being in the scorpio and try clicking pictures of marmots from a close distance. I felt so great walking around in that atmosphere. It was slightly cold, cool breeze with the air so pure without any kind of pollution. Wow it was such a nice experience. After sometime I came back in the jeep and we continued for Chumur.

Tibetan wild asses also called "Kiang"

Taking a break

Yet another fantastic shot
Photographer: Sunil Sir

Chumur is situated in the Changthang plateau region which one of most uninhibited place. Indeed that was true, kilometers and kilometers not a soul around except for some occasional nomads I think they were nomads called as "Chang Pa"). At one point of time we were not sure which way should go as there was no road and no other marks that could guide us the right way. Even our Chumur guy was confused which way to take. Luckily we spotted one such nomad ( and we asked him the way. By noon we reached Chumur. And without wasting time we went to visit the monastery.

Photographer: Sunil Sir

Photographer: Sunil Sir

We had to wait for a while for the lama, who took care of the monastery, to come. The guy who accompanied us from Hanle had a small talk with the lama and he agreed show us the monastery from inside. Indeed there was that dead lama's mummified body kept inside with several paintings on the walls and other stuff in the room.
We took some pictures there, donated some money there, spend some time
The ambience inside the monastery was so calm, silent and relaxing.
A carving on the floor just outside in the premises of the monastery

The mummified lama.
Photographer: Sunil Sir
Photographer: Sunil Sir

We asked the lama about the other story which was related to the witch and the lama and he unlocked another room and showed it to us
W were not allowed to enter but we could see the things and could take the pictures from outside. This was the room where they had kept the hand of the witch that lama had killed. The hand had the shape when someone does meditation. And the sword with which the lama had cut the witches hand was also kept there.
So the stories that we heard do seem to be true.
We felt really accomplished having seen all this as this was something not every other himalayan tourer does. It was something unique.

Notice the hand on the top left corner of the picture. And left to the red cloth is that sword kept
Photographer: Sunil Sir

Photographer: Sunil Sir
The lama told us that there is a new building getting built for the monastery and the things will be shifted to the new one probably next year.
After seeing the monastery we had our lunch. As usual it was maggi with some other things. We had lunch and we started our journey back to Leh and we planned to visit "Tso kar" which also means "Salty" in local language. Since it took a lot of time in reaching Chumur itself we were not sure if we could visit TsoMoriri too.
We crossed TsoKar and surrounding area we had to cross and get to the other side of the valley which will lead us somewhere near to Chumthang. Even the turbo charged scorpio wasn't able to cimb uphill. It was getting overheated quickly. It just another Marsmikla kind of terrain and climb. Our driver, Rigzin, opened the scorpio's hood and he started driving so that the engine gets cooled a little fast. We decided to lighten the scorpio and I, Sunil Sir, and others started walking towards the top. Man! it was tough or what. At 15000ft under the direct sunlight it was difficult.

That's TsoKar I guess. We didn't stop at the lake. We just took some snaps and went ahead.

Tornado formation, it was heading towards the lake slowly

Typical roads at Hanle, Chumur and surrounding areas
Photographer: Sunil Sir

At 15000ft even the turbo charged scorpio couldn't move easily.
Some how we reached the top and started decending. On the way we noticed a lot of streams originating from the top of the mountains getting wider with time as the ice started melting by this time. It was evening time by now.
We were praying that we do not get to cross any other overflowing stream and the dreaded happened. We were around 150 kms away from Leh and bumped into one such stream which was overflowing like a flooded river. On the other side of the stream we saw an army truck waiting from a long time because of the stream. They told us it won't be possible to cross the stream now. So now again nature's forces were against us. We had two choices now. Either wait till morning and cross the stream the next day or we track back to Hanle and take the route from which we came earlier from Leh.
Chosing the second option would mean we would have to cover around 400kms till Leh and we might have to drive the whole night which is next to impossible considering the roads we came through.

And also I forgot to mention that our driver wasn't in the best of his health. If you remember in Pangong Lake his friend's scorpion was stuck and he had helped him getting the scorpio through the stream (Read here). He had to get into ice cold water which caused him cough cold and slight fever. We had been giving him medicines for this on the whole trip but he was reluctant saying he doesn't take medicines. This time he agreed to take that and he felt better.
Now coming back to our problem. We had first thought of the second option but later we decided to wait till the dawn and cross the stream because traveling 400+kms wasn't feasible. The army guys told us that after crossing the stream, the roads were somewhat ok. So covering 150 kms wouldn't be much of problem the next day. As we calculated next day if we could reach Leh by noon or little later and start for Manali the same day, we can cover Leh to Manali and then Chandigarh in 3 days, we would still have one day or may be some hours less to spend i.e. Sunday in Delhi from where our return flights were booked for Bangalore. It would be an endurance ride but no other choice if we had to be on time in Delhi.
And to add to that we had a tent which could accommodate 3 people. We had also carried the sleeping bags just for this kind of situation itself.
Everybody agreed and again for the third time in the whole trip we had to wait for the morning.
Photographer: Sunil Sir

Army truck waiting on the other side
Photographer: Sunil Sir
Since we had ample time we tried moving a lot of stones here and there beside the stream so that somehow the flow of the stream can be diverted and we could cross it the same day. But all in vain.
So it was night time now. Time to take out the tent and the sleeping bags. We were 6 people and the tent could hold only 3 people which meant 3 remaining would have to spend the night in the scorpio itself. Our driver rigzin told that he will be in the scorpio itself.
At most 4 people can be accomodated in the tent. Chetan said that he will stay in the jeep itself. So that makes 4 people could go inside the tent. Now arises one more problem. We had only got 4 sleeping bags. Somebody among us forgot to pack the sleeping bag and this blunder wasn't a small one. We were wondering who left the sleeping bag because everybody was under the impression that the all the sleeping bags were packed.
Then I decided to stay in the scorpio without the sleeping bag. I thought it would be a little warm inside the jeep than the tent and anyways the place where the tent was setup, wasn't plain and it was directly over the rocks (we didn't have sheets to spread over the tent base) which would make it uncomfortable and cold without the sleeping bag.
Then finally it was decided that Sunil sir Prabhu and Chetan will go in the tent with the sleeping bag and I, Rigzin and Mohan will be in the jeep.
I wore more warm clothes tried sleeping. A little I knew how tough it would be to spend the night without proper warm clothes. It was getting colder and colder by the hour and even in the jeep it was shivering cold. If I open the window slightly the cold waves would come inside and if I don't I would feel suffocated. That was one horrible night for me. I was shivering like anything, the whole seat was vibrations due to my shivers. Even Mohan who was sleeping in the back seat was feeling the vibrations. I tried all sorts of things so that I could could warm and that too the seat was short and wasn't very comfortable. Anyways that was my toughest times but could manage some sleep and soon it was morning 5.30 or 6.00 everybody woke up, packed up the things and went towards the stream to check the water flow. The water level had decreased but still it wasn't low enough for scorpio to cross through. Our driver asked us to put big rocks at specific places so that the scorpio could go through those and cross the stream. We did that and the scorpio crossed with a little difficulty. Now it was the time for us to cross and the flow was just too much. We had to take different spots to cross the stream as the road was flooded. While crossing by mistake my foot went inside the ice cold water and MY OH MY! was that a freaking experience or what. As soon as my foot went inside, I felt as if millions of small needles have been poked into my heel. I quickly ran out of the stream and went inside the jeep. The pain was unbearable, at one point of time I felt like my heel and the fingers would break off. It was kind of hypothermia for the part that went inside the ice cold water. I quickly put warm clothes on my foot and heel, after sometime I felt better.

The tent and the jeep where we spent the night.
Photographer: Sunil Sir
After everybody crossed the stream we started towards Chumathang where we planned to have our meals. Since I had not slept properly during the night, I just slept the whole way and I fell asleep so deeply that I do not even remember what all places we crossed. Sunil sir and others took some pictures but not many en-route.
Finally we reached Chumathang and I had taken enough rest. We went to check out the hot water springs which were there just behind the hotel. It was actually hot boiling water coming out of the small pot holes. Chetan, Prabhu and Rigzine took bath there only and I, Sunil sir and Mohan freshened up, brushed our teeth and had our lunch there in the hotel.
Some pictures Sunil sir took on the way:

Photographer: Sunil Sir

Sign board en-route. Do keep this in mind whenever you visit TsoKar.
Photographer: Sunil Sir
We again started towards Leh and by noon we reached Leh. So now we had to start for Manali. And Without wasting much time we all checked out of the hotel, filled up petrol in our bikes and started towards Rumtse (72 kms from Leh) which is what our destination for the day was as we were running short of time. Remember? this was just the starting of Tanglangla Pass. We covered this distance fairly easily since the roads were all tarred and not much of traffic. Also our bikes were running fine unlike the time when we were coming to Leh.
We stopped at a homestay at rumtse just before the start of the climb for Tanglangla. We decided to stay there only as there would be nothing on the other side of the pass and it was getting dark very fast that we could cross "moore plains" and reach pang for the stay. We hired a room, had our dinner and slept for the night. The next day would be very hectic for as we would have to cross 4 big passes; Tanglangla, Nakeela, Lachlungla and BaraLacha La. And our destination for the next day was Keylong.

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